Winners and Losers of 2012: Winners

We posted our ‘Losers’ separately. Here are the Winners:

1. Colorado Media

Perhaps it was because Colorado had such national prominence as a top swing state, but whatever the reason, Colorado media outlets did an excellent job in their campaign coverage. What was different? The change was subtle but important: follow-up questions.

Too many reporters, particularly TV reporters, get so attached to their list of questions that they don’t ask important follow-up questions. There was a great example of this in Missouri, in the infamous interview in which Rep. Todd Akin made his “legitimate rape” comments. Those two words re-elected Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and they certainly damaged Republican candidates across the country who were asked their opinion of the statement. But what is often forgotten is that the reporter (who later apologized) didn’t ask a follow-up question. Really. Akin made one of the most important political statements of the year, and when he was done, his interviewer moved on to another question.

By contrast, reporters in Colorado dogged Republican Rep. Mike Coffman after a tape emerged of him saying that President Obama was “not an American,” with one TV reporter catching him on the sidewalk; Coffman never answered the reporter directly, but his ducking and dodging on-camera said more than enough. The media may not always get the story right, but by asking a few extra questions instead of just tossing softballs, they can help voters understand more about the candidates.

2. Reality

Republicans rode the “smaller government, lower taxes” mantra to moderate success in the past decade, but in 2012 voters finally decided to do the math themselves. Whether it was questioning Mitt Romney’s implausible budget & tax cut math, or whether they just started seeing more needs locally, voters in Colorado made it clear that they want their government to actually work. School bond measures that failed in 2008 were easily approved in Jefferson County, Denver, and Cherry Creek, among others. Republicans attacked Democrat Andy Kerr for being the face of an anti-TABOR lawsuit, but Kerr still defeated Ken Summers for a Jefferson County Senate seat.

Generic negative ads about the cost of “Obamacare” or the auto bailout weren’t effective anywhere, and poll after poll showed that voters favored broad ideas like environmental protection even after hearing arguments that it could slow economic growth. Nobody wants to pay more in taxes, but voters are no longer willing to risk our basic infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, etc.) just to save a couple of bucks.

3. Cory Gardner

The freshman Republican was never in danger of losing his seat to Democrat Brandon Shaffer. After redistricting was finalized and left CD-4 with a strong Republican lean, Gardner just had to run out the clock. In fact, redistricting made Gardner’s seat safe for the next decade, giving him the opportunity to take the mantle as the GOP’s leader in Colorado.

4. Scott Tipton

On paper, redistricting results seemed to suggest that CD-3 was much more competitive than it turned out to be in 2012. Tipton defeated a strong challenger in Democrat Sal Pace, and he did so by a hefty margin. As a result, Democrats won’t likely bother spending time or resources trying to take CD-3 in 2014 and beyond. Rep. Tipton is probably safe here for as long as he wants the seat.

5. Morgan Carroll

Carroll was re-elected to the state senate without much trouble, and she oversaw Democratic efforts to maintain control of the Senate. She also graciously ceded the CD-6 nomination to Joe Miklosi when she could have run herself. Carroll will again be one of the Democrats’ most vocal leaders in the legislature, and there are several higher offices (CD-6, Attorney General) for which she would be at the top of the list in 2014.

6. Latino and Young Voters

Candidates and campaigns have said for years that the Latino and Youth vote could be important, but it was never clear whether enough of these registered voters were actually casting a ballot. That changed this year, with exit polls and other data showing that both groups voted in large numbers. The true test will come in 2014 – if candidates spend significant resources on messages specifically for these voting blocs, there will no longer be any doubt.

7. Mark Udall & John Hickenlooper

There aren’t a lot of Republican rising stars that could pose a serious threat for Democrats in elections for U.S. Senate and Governor, respectively, in 2014. One of the GOP’s most likely candidates, Mike Coffman, performed so poorly in 2012 that he may have trouble even getting re-elected; even if he does challenge Udall, Coffman will be a significantly weaker candidate after so many self-imposed errors this year.  

We also list Hickenlooper as a “Loser” in our rankings, but for different reasons. From a re-election perspective, Hick can also be pleased with 2012 results. Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler was thought to be the most likely challenger for Governor (in part because there aren’t many Republicans who think Hick is beatable). Gessler’s already poor reputation took further damage with so many media stories about his bumbling attempts to purge “illegal voters” that didn’t exist in the first place, and now he faces criminal charges for repeatedly cleaning out the SOS petty cash drawer.

8. County Clerks

Colorado’s County Clerks, both Republicans and Democrats, generally ran a smooth election that produced early results and relatively few issues of concern. They stood up to Gessler at various points throughout the year, and then proved their mettle once ballots dropped.

9. The Tea Party

Make no mistake: the Tea Party is killing the Republican Party. But 2012 showed that Republicans are still terrified at the thought that they could earn the wrath of the Tea Party, which would mean a primary challenger. There has been a lot of talk from pundits about how Republicans have a lot of “soul-searching” to do in the wake of 2012 losses, but there isn’t a clear answer for how they can both satisfy the Tea Party and run candidates who can win in a General Election. There’s no question that ultra-conservative Republicans lost Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri that should have been easy victories. There’s no question that Republicans can’t keep running so far to the right in a General Election. But it’s still the GOP that needs to convince the Tea Party to change — not the other way around.  

10. FOX News

A Romney victory was the worst thing that could have happened to FOX News, because they would have lost their chief villain (President Obama) with a replacement that hardcore conservatives didn’t really like all that much. Four more years of Obama is four more years of red meat to drive ratings.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. AristotleAristotle says:

    They were the ones with the notorious clusterfuck of an Election Night. And the Bush Years basically proved that they didn’t need a “bad guy” in the White House. (Although I guess they had plenty of other bad guys to fret about then – Saddam, al Quada, Muslims in general. Are they going to start pounding the war drum on Iran to make up for it?)

  2. sxp151 says:

    Why did we create so many safe Republican districts again?  

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      In a state with fairly divided voter registrations (R, D, U), it wouldn’t be possible to draw 7 districts that favored one party over the other. CD-6 is exponentially different than it was before, in part because it is geographically in an area with the largest number of voters (which equals more areas of voter concentration that can shift)

    • speedyexpress48 says:

      a 4-3 congressional delegation;

      -1, 2, 6, and 7 go Democratic (If Coffman leaves)

      -3, 4, and 5 go Republican

      Maybe if we have a great year and a great candidate with horrid opposition, we could win the 3rd, but I’m not counting on it.

      • sxp151 says:

        and by most other measures we keep getting more Democratic as a state. So why are our Congressional districts getting more Republican?

        • AristotleAristotle says:

          And it went back to red immediately, even before it was redrawn to be even more conservative. That’s the only time they elected a Dem since it first came into being. The GOP wave isn’t sufficient explanation for Markey’s loss.

          Someone who pays more attention to the maps can confirm this, but my impression is that drawing conservatives out of CD-6 placed them in CD-5 or CD-4. If it was CD-5, then cons in that district went to CD-4. They couldn’t go into CD-1 and be neutralized (that would be egregious gerrymandering, and probably wouldn’t have been upheld by the court), and they couldn’t go into CD-7 and make that one GOP.

          Maybe they could have gerrymandered it another way – found cons to put into CD-1 instead of already red districts. I like that they didn’t, though. I prefer the Dems to play clean when they can, because swing voters appreciate that.

          The real answer to your question is in the answer to the question, When will CD-3 elect a Democrat again? In a good year, Tipton can be knocked off. I’m not sure I agree with Pols when they say that the seat is his as long as he wants it. CD-3 has a long history of electing Democrats, at least when they’re blue dogs. Pols said that Pace ran a good campaign, but West Slope sloggers reported that he was largely AWOL there. I can’t square their observations with Pols’ conclusion.

          In short, I don’t think the districts (other than the new CD-4) are becoming “more Republican.” Population growth isn’t happening in the rural areas. Suburbs aren’t the conservative havens they were 30 years ago (Douglas County notwithstanding). Good campaigning could have turned CD-3 and CD-6 blue this year. Hell, good campaigning could have kept CD-3 blue in 2010.

          • Littletonian says:

            As soon as the new maps were finalized, I had my doubts about Democratic strategy in the reapportionment process.

            Before redistricting, the breakdown looked like this:

            Safe D: 1, 2

            Competitive: 3, 4, 7

            Safe R: 5, 6

            And after redistricting, the breakdown looks like this:

            Safe D: 1, 2

            Competitive: 3, 6, 7

            Safe R: 4, 5

            Democrats controlled the redistricting process, and I’m not sure how swapping districts 4 and 6 helps the party.

            I believe that the most strategic redistricting party would have involved the migration of additional left-leaning areas of the state into CD-3 and CD-4. The concentration of population along the Front Range means that some of those areas need to be included in those two “rural” districts, and that’s always been the case (Pueblo in CD-3 and Fort Collins/Greeley in CD-4). Ceding Fort Collins’ CD to the GOP is a particularly bad move by Democrats: it’s a fast-growing city with various motivated liberal constituencies (college students, renewable energy employees, granola types, and craft beer enthusiasts). Both CD-3 and CD-4 had one-term incumbents whose districts were anything but “safe” before reapportionment.

            Instead, Democrats acted on a long-time pipedream of turning CD-6 into a competitive district. This was a particularly bad idea because of the short-term ramifications: Coffman is much better entrenched (and therefore harder to topple) than Tipton or Gardner. More importantly, Democrats didn’t have a strong candidate committed to seeking the seat – every Democratic insider recognizes the staggering dropoff in gravitas between Pace and Shaffer, and Joe Miklosi. Coffman’s reelection further solidifies the perception of CD-6 as a leans-R district, further entrenches Coffman as an incumbent, and scares away both challengers and donors.

            What did surprise me about the results was Sal Pace’s catastrophically bad performance in CD-3. I didn’t follow that race closely, but I’ve interacted with Tipton and Pace extensively when both of them were in the statehouse: Pace is a better legislator than Tipton and crushes him on a charisma scale. As a Democratic partisan, I actually hope that Pace’s campaign was horribly run, because if a strong challenger like Pace can’t beat Scott Tipton in what turned out to be a good year for Democrats on a national level and a state level, then I don’t think that CD-3 is competitive either.

            • AristotleAristotle says:

              Even though Betsey Markey won it in 2008, that had to do with Marilyn Musgrave’s utter incompetence and ugly personality, and the ongoing downfall of the GOP. The Dems gave a lot of money to help make that happen, and I believe they largely abandoned her in 2010. Sure, Markey won by a wide margin, but she lost by a wider margin (if you give the other candidates’ votes to Gardner, since they were conservatives too). All before redistricting took place.

              I’ll say it again – Markey’s victory was an anomaly.

              Now, I’m not a reapportionment expert. I don’t know if redrawing it to make CD-6 competitive was absolutely necessary. But I disagree that the gamble isn’t worth taking. You’re right that someone with some gravitas should have tried taking Coffman on. But I disagree that he’s safe, or as safe as before. He said things that cost him in 2012, but wouldn’t have hurt in the old CD-6. If he’s really hard right, he’s going to either have to work hard at pretending he isn’t, or he’s going to have to fight every election cycle like he did. I got the impression that he didn’t exactly relish such a tough campaign.

              If he decides that Congress is as far as his career can go (Pols says he harbors dreams of higher office, which are now in real doubt), then yes, he’s entrenched. If, however, he comes out of 2012 feeling validated, he won’t hold the seat for long. Especially if he runs for the Senate – I’m pretty sure he can’t run for both chambers at once.

              This may well have been a more calculated risk than you believe.

              Regarding CD-3… what can we say? If Pace didn’t try winning on the West Slope, he didn’t try, period. That’s bad, since Tipton has reached his political potential. Our only hope is that he doesn’t realize it and tries for something better.

              • Littletonian says:

                But I think that Dems should be upset about redistricting for no other reason than this: in 2008, which was a great year for Democrats but used districts drawn by Republicans, Dems were able to win 5 of 7 Congressional Districts. In 2012, which was a good year for Democrats and used districts drawn by Democrats, Dems only won 3 of 7 Congressional Districts and allowed two one-term incumbents to become institutions in their respective districts.

                I think we’d've done better with the old maps.

                That said, the reapportionment process in state legislative districts appears to have gone much better for our side.

  3. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    Behind the scenes spending his money strategically.

    He will do it again in 2014, etc.

  4. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    Those two puppets must have raked in a fortune from their righty paymaster.  

  5. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    As minority leader his courageous opposition to McNulty’s last ditch scuttling of some thirty bills and constancy in support of the civil unions effort–and his graciousness and optimism in that defeat–make his elevation to Speaker this session well deserved. It should be a well run, productive session.

  6. parsingreality says:

    http://politics.heraldtribune….

    So much for Libby ‘n Rasmussen.  

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